Joanne Photo
Employee Name: Joanne M. Cusack
Employee Title: Property Manager
How Long Have You Been With AAM? 21 years

What Does Your Daily Work Routine Include? My day starts at 8:00 a.m. reviewing what needs to get accomplished that day, such as a report, talking with an owner, and following up on work orders that the building engineers need to complete. But of course it never turns out that way, every day is different, and some days what you plan doesn’t happen because there is a crisis at a building, or the owner needs information, or you need to meet someone at the building for the owner. It is different every day!

What Do You Like Best About Your Job? Every day brings something new and challenging, whether it’s the people I encounter from my different owners, to the tenants and contractors. And of course my fellow co-workers!

What Do You Like Least About Your Job? Being interrupted when you are in the middle of something and you need to drop everything to work on a new project.

What Attributes Does Someone Need To Have In Order To Be Really Successful In Your Position? I think personality and the ability to think quickly in certain situations. Someone who is happy and can smile even when their day isn’t going the way they want it to.

What Are Your Current Goals? My goal is to continue working with my owners to oversee the operation and maintenance of their property according to their objectives.

What Would You Do If You Did Not Have This Job? I would be retired and living in a warmer climate, but if I retire now I would stay at home and watch my soon-to-be grandson for my son and daughter-in-law!

What Do You Do For Fun Away From Work? My husband and I love to sit on our patio (weather permitting) on Friday nights in front of a fire and have a few drinks! We play cards with our friends once a month. I also enjoy reading crime and romance novels!

What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment? My greatest accomplishment happened many years back. I saved the company money on janitorial supplies and trash removal. I spent a few days looking into dumpsters (literally) to see if we had the correct container for the tenants at each building. Then I worked closely with the janitorial supply companies to reduce our cost and purchase the same products for each location. It was a lot of hard work but it paid off in the end and the company saved 15% that year on supplies and trash removal.

When You Were A Kid, What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up? I wanted to work for the airlines when I was in high school.

If You Had a Magic Wand, What Cartoon Character, Movie Star, Or Athlete Would You Become And Why? If I had a magic wand, I’d have enough money not to work, but as far as being someone else, I like my life the way it is! I’m happy just being me!

Lobby Security 2.11.15
24-hour premises security is very challenging (yet rewarding) and those of us charged with manning these 24-hour stations must use a myriad of skills in our daily work to balance life safety and customer service.  Believe me, there is certainly more than what meets the eye! I urge you to read on to get a written snapshot of this fascinating field and integral part of many high-rise buildings today.

The Technical Side

Our aim is to proactively identify every person who enters the building as a member, visitor, vendor, contractor or perhaps an unwanted guest.  This involves an incredible amount of effort such as:

  1. Facial recognition
  2. Enhanced memorization of employees’ names
  3. Constant study of non-verbal communication
  4. Body language (represents two-thirds of all communication displayed by an individual)

This knowledge helps us to better observe and detect an individual’s behavior and their primary purpose within the building.  We aim to identify routine activity patterns and make our assessments based on any activities that may be unusual.

The Human Side

Our job requires an active interest in the overall well-being of each team member, visitor and tenant, while also having some light fun while working with one another.  This helps create a freeway of shared information and compared intelligence, lays a foundation of trust and integrity throughout the ranks, and continuously builds dependability and reliability within the department in our world of “We’re 24 Hours and We Never Close”.

“Improved service delivery is a paramount characteristic that security must embrace and execute at every  opportunity.” – Zakiyyah F. Askia, Apex3 Security


The Security Side

The lobby security officer is the first interpersonal interaction that the visitor will experience at the building.  This exchange should be open, receptive, and pleasant.  However, the visitor could perceive this initial process as being invasive to their privacy because we request proper identification from each visitor who enters the building. Some people may find this annoying and frustrating as they just want to make their appointment and go.

In addition, each visitor is required to have a specific contact name of the person they have arrived to meet and this may pose an additional barrier, depending on the situation.  The officer will then contact the tenant to confirm their admittance.  The primary goal is to perform these processes with a casual feel yet infused with professionalism so as not to arouse displaced tension.  For example, first-time visitors who enter the premises could be coming to interview for an available job position and may be somewhat nervous and slightly apprehensive. Our job is to determine the nature of their visit and obtain the necessary information without conflict. We must identify and empathize with these emotions in order to create a positive interaction so that the visitor is able to fulfill their intended purpose.

The Personal Side

The security officer must present a proper uniformed dress appearance, display an approachable command presence, speak with proper diction and voice tone, provide sufficient eye contact, and utilize universal hand gestures.  This lends each security officer a sense of ownership over their purpose, role, and function as a first-point-of-contact building representative.

The Trust Side

It is of the highest importance for building security officers to welcome and develop good rapport with all building members and visitors alike and strive to keep a “clean slate” with everyday interaction.  It is equally important for the building community members to know that they can trust us.  This will encourage individuals to advise us if they observe any potentially hazardous conditions, building-related infractions or infrastructure-related concerns which we will report to building management.  By working together as a team with building management, we can accomplish our goal of ensuring the utmost safety and security for us all.

What other facets of this industry have you observed? Please leave your feedback here in the comments! Thanks for reading my first blog post.

A huge thanks to Zakiyyah F. Askia (pictured above) of Apex3 Security, Director of Security and Life Safety at 20 West Kinzie for contributing this article and being a guest blogger.

Walking and the Fitbit

November 18, 2014







Yes, the Fitbit craze has arrived at Alter Asset Management! So far we have a handful of employees who have embraced this technology. The Fitbit is no longer just a step counter. Depending on the product level purchased it can now track sleeping patterns and so much more. Even employees who haven’t purchased a step tracker can be found around the water cooler, so to speak, in discussion to organize a walk around the mall. According to the American Heart Association: Research has shown that the benefits of walking and moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:

  • Reduce the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Improve blood lipid profile
  • Maintain body weight and lower the risk of obesity
  • Enhance mental well being
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer
  • Reduce the risk of non-insulin dependent (type 2) diabetes

So get up from the office chair and walk those extra steps…even if it’s just taking the long way around to the water cooler!


I recently had to deal with a major flood that occurred on a Sunday afternoon involving (6) floors in a 17-story mixed-use commercial building that I manage.  In case you are wondering, the source of the leak was from a tenant installed water machine.  Luckily, a few months ago our company arranged for a “Property Manager’s Lunch & Learn” with J.C. Restoration at their facility in Rolling Meadows.  I was extremely impressed with their operations and the facility which we toured but it did not occur to me at the time that I would be calling them in the near future to respond to a crisis in my building.  I guess you can say that, “Everything happens for a reason”!  When you are dealing with this much water damage you have to act quickly and you need an experienced company with the manpower and drying equipment to get the job done.  The clean- up is not just about extracting water from the surface of the carpet.  JCR scanned the entire floor and wall area with an infrared monitoring device to determine the areas that were still wet which were not visible to the naked eye.  The next step involved removing the vinyl baseboard and punching holes in the bottom of the drywall in order to dry out the interior of the walls with blowers and dehumidifiers.  In areas where there were rubber backed carpet tiles, those had to be removed in order to dry out the concrete underneath since the rubber acts as a vapor barrier.  This whole process takes days.

 Some important pointers to remember:

  • Store important paperwork in file cabinets, not in cardboard boxes on the ground because they will be damaged if there is a water leak.
  • Clean off your desk at the end of each day to protect your paperwork.
  • Report incidents as soon as possible to your insurance carrier.
  • Document everything!
  • Since cell phones are so critical in emergency situations, have a battery backup case.
  • If equipment was responsible for the leak, leave it in place so the insurance adjustor can inspect it.

My advice to all property managers is to do your homework in advance so that you have a reputable disaster recovery service to call when needed.  No one ever thinks it will happen to them.

At Alter Asset Management, even though we have the usual departmental divisions of Accounting, Property Management and Administration, we work together as a Team. Whether it is keeping our coworkers up to speed about the nuances of all the properties we manage or assisting one another to complete a client requirement. Our shared goal is satisfying our property owners. That’s an advantage of being a smaller company: we are all aware of what’s going on and will be happy to assist.

For years I’ve considered and disregarded the privilege of having my calls screened. Sometimes, especially at year end when there is a lot to be done in a short amount of time, I am so very tempted! But not doing so allows me to be very approachable and that’s something I’ve consciously cultivated. While I frequently receive calls that I would not normally handle I use the opportunity to expand my knowledge base. And when I do hand off a call I try to make sure that I am routing it to the best person for the situation to avoid having the call transferred multiple times. This personal touch is another advantage of being a small company. It’s all a part of Teamwork!

On Saturday, October 25th, 2014, AAM took part in the Make a Difference Day national day of service where millions of volunteers nationwide work together to revitalize their communities. Whether rebuilding parks, renovating school, or remodeling community housing, everyone takes part to give back and help those that are less fortunate. We partnered up with HandsOn Greater Phoenix and the City of Mesa to paint the home of an elderly woman who applied for help from the city based on medical and financial reasons. In addition to painting her house, we also moved some items into storage for her, cleaned up her backyard/patio, and did light landscaping to take away any debris from her trees and bushes. We were honored to take part in the Make A Difference Day and carry on the continued support of the community that Alter Asset Management has been known for throughout the years.

Work Complete!

From left to right, starting with the back row; Marco, Rob, Paul, Dan, Dalton, Brent Adrian, Elsa, Judy, Laura Airam, Allysa


October 28, 2014








Each and everyone one of us has to network on some level. It is, however crucial in the Real Estate field.

Every level that you touch within Real Estate has the ability to touch your market client basis.


Financial Industries-Lawyers-Owners-Brokers-Property Managers

Tax Consultants- General Contractors-Architects


We all have a part to play in the BIG picture, we each have a reach, a touch to our client basis.


♦Shouldn’t we all work together to increase our reach and assist in a betterment of the overall business?

♦How many organizations do you networks within?

♦Do you see the same people over and over again?

♦Are there organizations that you are not benefiting directly from but continue to participate because that is what every other persons does in that field?


 I believe it is very important to BREAK outside of the BOX!

Branch out to another networking group that is not as inundated with the same industry related fields.  Is that where you will find a new untapped market reach to your client(s)?

Just some questions to think about and discuss…..hope to hear your input and how you look and feel about your industry reach.


WeWork Lease at One11

October 16, 2014











As One11 hits the market for sale, landlord representative

Matt Ward hits another home run! 

(Newmark Grubb Knight Frank)

Read the most recent press release:

Crain’s Chicago Real Estate Daily


 20W Kinzie











◊Will 20 West Kinzie be next?

Will 20 West Kinzie be the next major lease transaction

in the River North area, when Google Inc. vacates?


As everyone in the Chicago area knows,

River North is a HOT HOT HOT market place.  

Tech and Education companies, are not just like any ol’ tenant either.

It takes a special type of Property Manager to be able to think fast on their feet and be able to adjust within the buildings structure to assure all tenancies operate simultaneously with no interruptions.

That is why Alter Asset Managers, ROCK!  

They are fast on their feet and make everything work like a well oiled machine.

Kimberley Wuensch







AAM Employee Spot Light – Kimberley Wuensch


Employee Name: Kimberley Wuensch

Employee Title: Senior Accounting Administrator

How long have you been with AAM? 13 years

What does your daily work routine include? Piles of paper and a lot of typing! Because I’ve worked in the accounting field for many years I have well rounded abilities. However, on a typical day I will complete invoice payments, process receivables, review available funds and work on an array of financial reports.

What do you like best about your job? In the greater scope of the company as a whole; I love the respect and compassion that is demonstrated from the top down toward the employees. Employees are treated as people and never as a means to an end.

What do you like least about your job? AAM employees tend to stick with the company making the opportunity to change roles very rare.

What attributes does someone need to have in order to be really successful in your position?

The ability to pay close attention to details; handle constant change; work with deadlines; remember every nuance of every single property requirements; be able to tackle roadblocks and make instant decisions. I start each day with a mental game plan of what I need to accomplish and adjust it as the day progresses.


What are your current goals? To smile more often.


What would you do if you did not do this job?  I find it fascinating, challenging and fun to interact with the public so perhaps marketing; or mentoring new businesses; with a dash of retail therapy.


What do you do for fun away from work?  My husband and I both enjoy cooking and gardening. We had a bumper crop of basil this year so I froze a batch of pesto I made from scratch. We are fans of the Saturday morning show, Pioneer Woman, and like to surprise each other by trying new recipes.


What is your greatest accomplishment? I’m an organizer so if opportunity presents then I make improvements. When I arrived at AAM they did not have W-9 for their vendors so over the years I’ve collected over two thousand W-9s. I also write “how to do” articles for everything. For instance, I have step by step instructions explaining how to print tenant statements for every management program we use. Before leaving each day I put everything away so I can begin the next day fresh and organized.


When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I remember in 5th grade I had thoughts of becoming an attorney. As an adult, I briefly worked at a law firm completing research and copying case files. Being an avid reader I found the material fascinating to read.


If you had a magic wand, what cartoon character, movie star or athlete would you become and why? I would be Samantha on Bewitched because I can wiggle my nose and I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to sit on a cloud.


September 19, 2014

Hire a PM







Random thoughts to be a better property manager…..

  1. Have the ability to MULTI-TASK and remain CALM, COOL and COLLECTED when the heat gets turned up!
  2. See the BIG PICTURE, to take in input and make a sound decision based off the information that you have gathered.  Make sure you can back up your decision with why and how you chose the choice you chosen.  Others might not take the same route to get to the result, but as long as the outcome is the best and you kept your fiduciary responsibilities in mind while making your decision.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS.  Walk and talk as I used to say when working with my engineering staff.  Show me, explain to me so that I can understand and be able to explain it to anyone else that may need or want to know, or just plain to expand my knowledge.  How many times have you sat in a room full of people in meetings and at the end they ask, “Anyone have any questions?” then there is silence…….only to be met with a barrage of chatting (once the person has left the room) with tons of questions.  SPEAK UP!  Ask the question, because someone else is wondering the same thing.  No questions is a stupid question.
  4.  Enlist an expert TEAM of employees and vendors and build those relationships with the walk and talk, explain to me why relationship.  In addition don’t just take one person’s word for it, ask and ask again for input from others.  If it doesn’t seem right, most likely it is not!  In the wise words of Oprah listen to your internal voice.
  5. Play devil’s advocate or have another person or partner in the office to BOUNCE ideas off of.  The best relationships and most successful relationships is having someone who does not always see eye to eye with you, but you both have a mutual respect for each other.  Someone that provides you the other side of the coin, a different perspective of looking at things, and be open to consciously seeing their perspective.
  6. Be NICE to your brokers and they will be nice to you.  You are all on the same team, even if you do not work for the same company; you work for the same client.
  7. Take PRIDE in your building, you see a piece of trash….pick it up!  Walk your buildings on a daily basis, and get up there on that roof and check it out.  Walk those mechanical rooms and electrical closets.  Men and women see things differently, not better or worse just differently.  An extra set of eyes never hurts.
  8. Last but not least, SAFETY FIRST!  Be proactive, be prepared, and be conscious of your surroundings.